Types of Wetlands in Arkansas
Not all wetlands are the same and different types of wetlands support different species of plants and animals. Arkansas wetlands can be classified in a number of different ways, including land that:
- is forested
- is herbaceous, or dominated by non-woody plants
- holds water all year
- experiences both a wet season (generally in winter and spring) and a dry season (generally in summer and fall)
- receives the majority of its water when rivers flood their banks
- gets its water from precipitation
- gets most of its water from groundwater that seeps up through the soil
Wetland classification based on the location of the wetland in the landscape. Illustration by Elizabeth Murray, Arkansas Multi-Agency Wetlands Planning Team.
Seeps and Springs
Groundwater-fed wetlands include seeps and springs that have groundwater as their water source:
- Springs are wetlands in which groundwater emerges from a single point.
- Seeps are wetlands where groundwater literally seeps up through the soil over broad areas.
Both of these habitats have species of plants and animals that are found only in groundwater-fed wetlands. Seeps and springs are very important to certain groups of plants such as ferns, sedges, and orchids. Water emerging from these wetlands is cool and rich in various minerals, and in Arkansas, they are known to support a number of species that are typically found much farther north.
Photo is an example of a wooded seep wetland in the Ouachita Mountains. Plants include cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), royal fern (Osmunda regalis), netted chain fern (Woodwardia areolata), umbrella magnolia (Magnolia tripetala), and American holly (Ilex opaca). Photo by Chuck Klimas.
Bottomland hardwood forests and forested swamps:
- generally get their water when rivers flood and spill over into broad floodplains
- often fill with deep water during the wet season
- don't have a lot of plant species on the ground
- often support a number of woody plant species adapted to winter and spring flooding
Bottomland hardwood forest in Ashley County
Flatwoods, as the name implies, are generally flat and occur on older, higher river terraces that are above the active floodplain. They:
- receive water from precipitation
- have much higher diversity of plants on the ground
- have seasonal wet/dry cycles
- many flatwoods historically burned during the dry season
Wet hardwood flatwoods with dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor) understory at Palmetto Flats Natural Area in Little River County.
Herbaceous wetlands are Wetlands with few, if any trees. Examples of herbaceous wetlands in Arkansas include marshes, wet prairies, and open seeps. Herbaceous wetlands can be:
- dominated by grasses, sedges, rushes, shrubs, and many kinds of wetland wildflowers
- too wet for trees to become established
- maintained by periodic fire, beaver activity, or unusual soil conditions
Open marsh habitat at the Bill Clark Wetlands on the Arkansas River.
For more information on types of wetlands in Arkansas and how they are classified, visit these websites:
Arkansas Multi-Agency Wetland Planning Team "Wetlands in Arkansas"
United States Environmental Protection Agency "Water: Wetlands"
The Wetlands of Missouri
The Wetlands of Missouri